The Big Drum Ritual of Carriacou:
Praisesongs in Rememory of Flight

Lorna McDaniel

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"This intensely interdisciplinary study is rich in research, subtle in analysis and humane in intent, a model of diasporic scholarship. A brilliant achievement."—Sterling Stuckey, Presidential Chair, University of California, Riverside

"The definitive work on the Nation Dance. . . . It will be the critical book that every scholar and every other person interested in the Caribbean, its culture and its religious expressions, will have to read."—Donald Hill, State University of New York, Oneonta, author of Calypso Calaloo

The Big Drum is the lively ancient dance rite of the small island of Carriacou, Grenada. This book introduces 120 of the ceremonial song texts and dances that call and entertain the ancestors who are central to Carriacou religious experience.
Performed since the early 1700s, the Big Drum dance reveals an African-Caribbean religion at its inception as practiced by enslaved people and in its current expression as a vital, living aspect of Carriacou society. No other Caribbean ritual like it still exists.
Lorna McDaniel maintains that the nine coded rhythms of the boula drums hold the history of the nine African "nations" that inhabited early Carriacou, keeping alive their memories of Africa and of family lineage. In discussion of the spiritual bases of the Yoruba dances of Grenada, Trinidad, Cuba, and Jamaica, McDaniel illustrates the connection between the liturgical symbols of danced religions and the ancient myth of "The Flying Africans."
McDaniel, who lived in Carriacou at the time of the 1983 invasion of Grenada, frequently observed Big Drum dances and interviewed many "old heads" (wise people) for this book. She concludes it with an analysis of a single calypso that memorializes the invasion and illustrates the history-keeping function of the calypso and Big Drum. She uncovers a structural relationship between ancient praisesongs and modern political songs and suggests the continuing impact of music on the memory of Caribbean people.

Lorna McDaniel is the founding editor of the journal New Directions: Readings in African Diaspora Music. She has taught at the University of Michigan, the University of Nigeria, and Cheyney University and is the author of articles in The Black Perspective in Music and Black Music Research Journal.

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Choice Outstanding Academic Title - 1999
Category Best Seller - 2000

"Rarely are we given such depth of insight and wealth of comparative research as are presented in her ethnomusicology of Carriacou - truly a satisfying, informative, and provocative read." - Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies
--Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies

"[A] landmark study in the musical history of the African diaspora." -- Choice

"McDaniel's stated goal in documenting this event . . . was to preserve and disseminate an example of early African ritual in the Americas. In this work she has achieved that and more by using a novel methodology combining elements of historical ethnomusicology (a discipline in which musical materials are used to reconstruct history), linguistics, cultural anthropology, and history." -- Oshun

"A model of interdisciplinary scholarship. . . . A welcome contribution to the study of traditional music and dance in the Caribbean and . . . highly recommended for all those interested in the African diaspora and Caribbean studies."-- Ethnomusicology

"A must-read for anyone interested in Caribbean ritual music, its origins, its current status, and by extension, Caribbean culture generally."-- Yearbook for Traditional Music
--Yearbook for Traditional Music

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